Sunday, September 2, 2012

Trapping; Today's Market Hunting

October 7, 2011
Trapping; Today's Market Hunting

Recently, I was asked to provide arguments to counter the claims "contending that trapping and selling fur is like the market hunting of old".  As I finished drafting my response it dawned on me that others might find my overview of interest and value.  With this in mind, I offer my thoughts on market hunting, trapping today and the animal rights movement.

"To your question, market hunting and trapping have one thing in common; wildlife is / was harvested for financial  gain.  This is where any similarity ends.  Market hunting was unregulated, unrestricted and unsustainable.  The outcome of market hunting birthed the departments of game and fish across the nation and the Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington. Wildlife Management, as a profession, too can find its roots in the aftermath of the market hunter.  Trapping, hunting and fishing are all now highly regulated and are practiced in a very sustainable way.  Conservation, despite the global misuse of the word by the press and preservation groups, deals with the wise use of our natural resources not their non-use.  Outdoorsman have supported wildlife management / conservation with their dollars and time for over a century.  They have embraced license fees, habitat stamps and excise taxes for the purposes of maintaining the overall health of our wildlife and ecosystems for all people.  The message from the other side is one of complete sophistry, plain and simple.  It is based purely on a belief (thou shall not kill) not science and not reality.  Because of this our arguments will never alter the zealots opinions any more than the Pope could change the mindset of a devout atheist.  Short, simple scientific / constitutional arguments will win the day with the non-trapping non-animal rightist public, because these reasons can be supported with facts and data, ergo these arguments are righteous. 

Trappers and agency managers / overseers should make no excuses for killing animals for the sale of the pelts, glands, skulls, other "parts" and in some areas, as meat for human consumption.  Our wildlife is an annually renewable resource.   As such, non-harvest of  nature's built in surpluses would be simply wasteful and counterproductive to the overall management of the ecosystem and to the general health of the people.  People are inherently repulsed with the concept of wanton waste.  Likewise they greatly dislike killing animals to throw them into pits or bar ditches.  Yet this would be and in some cases has been, the only alternative to managed harvest.  Today the majority of European countries consider furbearers as pests.  In Holland, for example, muskrats are killed by any manner or method and left to rot; unutilized, they are wasted.  Proudly, this is not the way of America's trappers and wildlife managers.   Globally, society has rejected the notion of barbarism and cruelty relative to trapping; in spite of forty years of one sided reporting and continuous spiteful attacks by the animal rightists,  fur sales are at all time highs. 

The utopia of prey staying in "their place" and predators only killing the old, weak and excess numbers is as untruthful as the moniker of bone crushing traps.  Man is here and in ever increasing numbers.  We have altered the earth and these changes will continue; it is our role in the greater scheme of things.   In order to sustain our ecosystems we must use our knowledge and tools to balance the effects of our existence with our surroundings and wildlife.  In North America, this task was laid at the feet of the outdoorsman.  We have willingly shouldered the responsibility for generations.  Look where we are today.  Wildlife and wild places abound.  Species have been restored to their historic range.  The river otter and  wolves were all caught with foothold traps for relocation.  Hunters, trappers and fisherman started this movement and nurtured it to is current level; I'm proud to say I had a hand in building our heritage, as I am certain are you.  On the other side,  "come lately" groups use their lies to raise money and sympathy from the unsuspecting public and spend these dollars on high salaries for themselves, not on the wildlife or the ecosystem for all.

Reasonable folks care that others are being ethical and are transparent.  Trappers, by nature, hide things and their actions; they are secretive.  They are so, out of the necessity to accomplish the goal of catching the animals they seek and to keep captured animals hidden and calm.  Secondarily, we hide our equipment and catches to avoid theft and vandalism.  It is precisely because of these learned behaviors that trappers have done a poor job of educating the public and in some cases other trappers.  In recent years, however, trappers have taken on the task of showing that we are ethical; we do concern ourselves with the welfare of our catches.  State and national trapping associations in concert with various governmental agencies and the fur industry have undertaken trap testing  and numerous public relation projects.  The Best Management Practice (BMPs) and the "Destroying the Myth" productions are good examples of this commitment.  Locally, trappers are manning booths at public events in ever increasing numbers to pass on and promote our trapping heritage.  We are ethical and we are working on becoming completely transparent. Through our efforts we have shown, following strict scientific protocols, that our equipment and methods simply do not physically harm the animals we capture and in so doing have shown the animal rightists to be the liars that they clearly are.  Unfortunately, as with all human endeavors, there are some who for whatever reason, are flawed in thought and practice.  These few proverbial "rotten apples" get all the media focus and therefore must be dealt with effectively; we remain vigilant in this regard.

The church of the Animal Rightist has been selling the public their message of cruel and barbaric trapping and more generally their "thou shall not kill anything" theme for nearly fifty years.  These labels are arbitrary and not supported by fact.   Their message is religious in nature, in that it is a belief.  It is not based in any way, shape or form on science, knowledge or reality.  Rather, inherent in their message is man's superiority over nature and obviously he can lift himself above the bonds of biology and reality.  All life on earth is sustained from the energy of the sun which drives the life processes of all plants.  This captured / transformed  solar energy (whether it be food stuffs, fiber or fossil fuel) is consumed in cyclical fashion by all the animals and other non-photosynthetic life forms on the planet, including man.  Man being capable of cognitive thought and reason can and should conduct himself in a manner which mitigates the detriments of his existence.  But he cannot and should not think that he is all powerful and therefore able to separate himself from the web of life; that thought process is unquestionably and terminally flawed.

Consumptive use is the basis of life on earth and wise use is the meaning of conservation.  Outdoorsman, and those that work the land are the true conservationist.  We fully understand that to ensure life as we know it, we must use our resources in a sustainable renewable way.  We put our money, time, effort, energy and lives where our mouths are; talk is cheap, we know this and that is why we act.    

Trapping is an integral portion of the overall management plan for our wildlife.  Trapping and for that matter hunting are not  sports.  Trapping is a way of life.  Today few make their entire livelihood from trapping, many make a portion of their annual income harvesting furbearers for pelts or depredation control while most trappers are best classified as hobbyist.  Regardless, trapping is an important activity for the participants, landowners, wildlife agencies, wildlife and, in fact, the public in general.

Outdoorsman, farmers and ranchers are people that chose to embrace life for what it is and participate in it fully.  We understand the cycles of nature and we accept their consequences.  We are not cruel or barbaric because we kill, we simply are fully engaged with life.  Should we always seek to better our actions and relationships with other life?  Of course we should and we have and we do.  In the end, however, death is inevitable.  Death is the beginning of all new life.   We cannot change this and we should not try. "

Tom McDowellLegislative Liaison,  New Mexico Trappers Association


No comments: